New dinosaur found on Alberta ranch

Fossils in Milk River | Alberta rancher has 
new species of dinosaur named after him

It’s not every day that a person has a dinosaur named after him.

Rancher Roy Audet of Milk River, Alta., is pleased that day came for him.

His namesake is Acrotholus audeti, a dog-sized, plant-eating dinosaur that lived 85 million years ago and roamed the area that is now Audet’s cattle ranch near Writing On Stone Provincial Park.

“It feels great. It’s nice. It was nice of David Evans to do that,” said Audet.

Evans, a paleontologist with the Royal Ontario Museum, discovered the skull of the dinosaur in 2008 while on a field trip with his team of researchers and graduate students. It has taken years to determine the skull was that of a previously unknown species.

“The research on it is complete and they’re publishing their findings on it,” said Audet.

“It takes a long time for them to confer with other paleontologists that it’s indeed a new species. It’s not something that just one person can decide.”

Recent publication of the findings in the journal Nature Communications has brought publicity to the new species and to Audet.

Evans and his team had visited the ranch before and removed ancient tortoise fossils, but this was the first dinosaur fossil.

Areas east and north of the Audet ranch have yielded valuable fossils in the past, among them a dinosaur egg near Warner and various skeletal remains in the Milk River Canyon.

However, Audet said those are from more recent species, a mere 60 to 65 million years old.

Audet said he is not an avid fossil hunter, though he has always been aware of the potential to find ancient remains.

“I collect all the stuff I can find, that’s true, but I don’t limit myself to dinosaurs.”

He and his wife have already visited the skull in its new home at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where it has been since 2008.

In the Nature Communications synopsis, Evans and his team write that small-bodied dinosaurs such as Acrotholus audeti are less common finds than their larger dinosaur counterparts.

This particular species has a high-domed bony skull.

“A new, fully domed pachycephalosaurid dinosaur, Acrotholus audeti, from the Santonian of Alberta predates incompletely domed taxa, and provides important new information on pachycephalosaur evolution and the completeness of the ornithischian fossil record,” reads the summary.

Audet’s family has owned the ranch where the skull was found since 1900. It lies near the Montana border in Alberta’s grassland plains.

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